‘It is so cool to be rich. Thank God I am not poor.’ Are these your private thoughts?
Money brings countless privileges and opens many doors. Many successful people start small and build their success the hard and honest way. They wear simple clothes and drive functional cars, the types that get you from A to B and hardly talk about their success. They may be highly gifted intellectually and it is inevitable for them to climb the corporate ladder. Or they excel as entrepreneurs who spot a need or shortcoming in the market and then deliver the right product or service to meet that need. South Africa is in need of such leaders in their fields to unearth even more talent. Many of them do so already but we need even more.
Unfortunately not everyone handles their wealth in such an exemplary way. Some also start small but then become arrogant with the first glimpses of success. Others lack the necessary moral fibre and get involved in shady deals. It boggles the mind how some people would commit their entire retirement money to unscrupulous businessmen only because they look and sound right. But it happens, just read the newspapers. And then there are ‘tenderpreneurs’ – enough said.
It is hard to imagine a time when there was no divide between rich and poor. If we go back to the days of the ministry of Yeshua ben Yosef, we see that it was no different back then. The poor was generally regarded as cursed and the rich as blessed. Yeshua would have learnt the trade of His earthly father Yosef namely carpentry and there would have been good and not so good times. It is something worth pondering for a lifetime that the Father set aside such a modest life for His Son while on earth. He was ideally placed to choose any configuration, but chose that one.
The efficient and brutal Romans were the rulers of the day. Within the Jewish community the ruling class was the Sadducees while the Pharisees were ‘themselves mostly petty commoners, men of the people with no scribal education.’ It is within this complex situation that Yeshua starts His ministry. As the Messiah we would do well to hear what His objectives were, what His assignment was. And so we see that He came to Nazareth (where He grew up) and went to the synagogue on the Shabbat and read from the Tanakh (Isaiah 61:1-2) where it states: ‘Because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel (good news) to the poor.’ He then told them plainly: ‘Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.’ They understood perfectly what He meant and He knew that to make a statement of that nature is looking for huge trouble, as in HUGE. Yet He said it and was nearly thrown off a cliff.
If I was sitting in that synagogue and considered myself rich I would have been very worried. This theme repeats itself over and over in the Gospels, but in a western materialistic consumerist world, that is not what we would call ‘good news’. Yeshua for instance told the parable of Lazarus and the rich man, after they died Lazarus went to Abraham’s bosom and the rich man to a place of torment. John the Baptist received a message from Yeshua that He is Mashiach when He said: ‘Tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear and the poor has the gospel preached to them.’ On another occasion a ‘young rich man’ asked Him what he needed to do to inherit eternal life. Yeshua first pointed him to the commandments of Moses. When he replied that he had done that his entire life, He put this challenge to him: ‘Go and sell all your possessions and give your money to the poor.’
We obviously need money to pay for all our needs, so don’t be silly and think that I’m saying that money is bad. But the problem arises is when we continually crave and desire it. It clouds our judgment on things pertaining to the eternal. It becomes a snare as we feel that we do not need God’s provision.
The prestige and power that money brings is so powerful that Yeshua said these words: You cannot serve both Mammon and God! He said you will love the one and hate the other or be loyal to one and despise the other.